Alphabet (aka Google) is being beset by major brand withdrawals from its search ad business due to ads running on inflammatory or “fake news” websites, and on YouTube next to videos from hate groups and other extremists. While Alphabet provides automatic screening of such sites and videos, its algorithms paint with a wide brush and have trouble deciphering acceptable content. JPMorgan Chase learned this the hard way when The New York Times presented it with evidence of banner ads displayed on a website called “Hillary 4 Prison.”

Joe Marchese, president of advertising products for Fox Networks Group summed up the crux of the issue in The New York Times, saying “Honestly, the long tail is to advertising what subprime was to mortgages. No one knows what’s in it, but it helps people believe that there is a mysterious tonnage of impressions that are really low cost.” In other words, many companies don’t have a great feel for where exactly their advertisements are placed.

The situation presents an obvious reputational and ethical dilemma to advertisers. As a mid-sized business or large corporation, what is the correct approach when a search advertising campaign could cause a crisis? One option is pursuing JPMorgan’s strategy of pre-approving the placement of every single display as they did with 5,000 sites in 2016. Surprisingly, the strategy has seen little decline in ad impressions. However, time is money, especially for mid-sized firms who are just seeking name recognition.

Here are some best practices to better manage your search advertising:

  • To ensure an unbiased evaluation partner with an independent advertisement verification company to mitigate ad spend, accurately measure impressions and increase accountability.
  • On a quarterly basis, take a magnifying glass to your placement settings and gain a finer understanding of where your brand is presented. Understand the KPIs (key performance indicators) most important to your brand, and where your highest performing ad placements are, then supplement your buy with direct ad buys to those sites.

More important than tweaking your ad buy, however, is employing a balanced, 360-degree communications program that incorporates media relations, thought leadership, conference speaking and direct communications via multiple channels to customers and business partners alike. Earned media and self-produced video or audio content that emphasizes an organization’s strengths to the right audiences go a long way to mitigate digital advertising risk.

Organizations that rely solely on programmatic ads not only open themselves to greater reputational risk, they lose the opportunity to use tactics that make for a more effective, impactful brand presence.

Eddie DeSciora

Image via Pixabay